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clear soup mackeral

My significant other-in-law Chris runs a charter fishing boat out of Darwin. He has five top fish and not only refuses to keep any fish outside of the five for himself, but refuses to give them away either. Picky to be sure, but it meant we got five bags of immaculatey packed and filleted pieces of Darwin’s finest when my sister in law came to stay.

Mackeral in a Clear Soup
Mackeral is a strong tasting fish so the idea was to place it in a milder context of the mild fishiness of dashi stock. The dashi has mirin added to it for a bit of sweetness and soy sauce to fill in the gaps with a bit of meaty saltiness. The amounts of the latter two need to be tested with tasting. Dashi has a short cooking time so there’s more variance than with a stock that has a longer cooking time and a greater margin of error.
I was also happy to find katsuoboshi in a pack of 50gm bags at the small Asian deli next to Herdies Grower’s fresh. All that seemed to exist before were two kilogram bags, which is quite an amount of of dried bonito shavings. 50gm is also exactly the right amount you need for 1.5 litres of dashi, along with a 6x4cm square of konbu. Konbu is a large sea grass that contains glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is used as a neurotransmitter but also stimulates the umami receptors of our tongue. Umami is the mysterious fifth dimension of taste, which I find personally relevent as Age of Aquarius was the number one single in the year of my birth. It’s also the source of the much maligned MSG.
Traditionally, dashi is made with the water used to rinse rice but untraditionally, I didn’t have rice so normal water had to do.

Dashi
- Add the konbu to 1.5 litres of water and heat over a medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, remove the konbu from the pot.
- Bring the water to a boil. Add 50gm of katsuoboshi and just as it starts to sink, strain the stock. I’m not sure of the exact degree of sinking and whether it’s as soon a one flke heads downward. Just don’t go wandering off.

Soup
The soup is based on a bamboo and prawn clear soup recipe from Kosaki and Wagner’s The Food of Japan. Theinteresting thing in this is the prawns are dusted with cornflour and quickly cooked in boiling water and then chilled. I’ve no idea what the cornflour does, it’s usually great for coating chicken for frying though. In this case, it did wrap the fish in an interesting texture.

- Add 5 tsp each of mirin and soy sauce for every three cups of dashi.
- Cut the mackeral into manageable pieces and cook as for the prawns above (there aren’t actually any prawns or bamboo in this in case you’re confused, because I replaced it mackeral didn’t I? And try getting fresh bamboo shoots at 6pm on a Sunday night in Perth).
- Add the mackeral pieces to the soup and heat through.
- Distribute the soup and mackeral pieces to the bowls and garnish with sliced chilli, steamed asparagus, and bean shoots that you’ll have spent 15 minuted trying to tie into four neat bundles with a lightly boiled bean shoot stem.

golden snapper


Golden Snapper with Artichoke Barigoule
Yet another Michel Roux Jnr recipe, I’d explain it in detail but I really think you should just go out and buy Le Gavroche Cookbook and get the Food of Japan while you’re at it. Artichoke barigoule is actually quite an old French dish. This one is best described as a mirepoix of roughly equal amounts of fennel bulb, onion, carrot, and diced and browned parma ham cooked in olive oil with thyme and garlic with two peeled artichokes in sixths added and then simmered covered with greaseproof paper with a glass of white wine, 60ml of warm water, and the juice of half a lemon for 15 minutes. Think of it as a nascent stock.
The fish is cooked in a very hot ovenproof pan in a very hot oven with olive oil, rosemary and thyme.
Serve on mash with the barigoule, garnish with freshly shredded basil leaves, a splash of olive oil and some of the barigoule juices.

Very nice. The snapper is fantastic and the only thing that can be “done” to it is stuffing it up, but a careful eye should prevent that. I liked the barigoule too, the finely diced pieces blended together without any particular one being dominant with the citric aspects of the wine and lemon juice matching the fish.

Bonus Motor Reviews:
00 V6 Holden Commodore Executive
If you’re an executive that makes his or her own cup of coffee and brown bags their lunch then you’ll appreciate the modest touches like non-electric windows and a cassette player. The steering wheel feels surprisingly like a stress ball, handy for times of refuelling, and connects to competent enough if uncompelling handling. The treasure though, is the engine which throttles the loaf-like sedan at a rudely entertaining pace, which, when couple with underperforming tyres allows for many squeal like a pig moments.

’06 620 Ducati Monster
Traditional no fuss naked home of gentler Ducati engines makes for simple biking pleasures accompanied by a beautiful Termignoni note. Sit up and beg riding position with wide handlebars allows for confident drop in cornering. Slipper clutch avoids traditional Ducati requirement on manly bear grip but does make for uncertain starts. Lower power requires more judicious gear selection than with larger torquier twins. Apparently the front shocks can’t be adjusted , so firmer springs and a bikini screen a good accessory choice.

’06 Volvo XC90 D5
Smooth spinning and with a creamily compelling engine howl, it handles as effortlessly as it does seat five with ample luggage space. Quick, quicker with autotronic, but be soothed by Nordic utilitarian design and soft lights.

Next Week! 240 series redux

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terrine de mère et de fille


Sunday was the Fremantle Family Food Fiesta and Jeff the photographer and me decided to make an appearance with our loved ones on behalf of the mag. For those that like their fun highly organised, this was a treat with rules stretching to over two pages. The theme was the family’s favourite dish and this, with both of us having fairly bog standard Australian food childhoods, left us non-plussed. Unlike other foodies who could successfully write an essay within the given 50 minute period “Becoming a foodie was inevitable, discuss, giving examples with special emphasis on the period leading up to the event”. Pens down. My home food was neither especially bad or especially extraordinary, just food to feed a family with some variety with a supermarket 30 miles away. My mum though would always make a platter, or “plate”, for local dances and as these became kind of signature dishes for each family, I thought I’d recreate it, but in aspic. Not that it ever was in aspic but it’s a tasty enough allusion to the way we suspend and organise our memory.

It’s not an overly intimidating thing to make. All the work is creating the aspic. Unless you’re happy with commercial stocks, you’ll be making your own chicken stock. I ended up making a consomme and a good explanation of the hows and whys is here. A few things to think about. I used three teaspoons ofgelatine for 500ml of stock and added an extra teaspoon for hot weather. This balanced well – you don’t want it turning into chum but then again you don’t want something with the consistency of silastic. The stock should have its own gelatine from the bones and a good one gels in the fridge. If I’d done the chicken stock again, I would have a added a veal bone or tried to track down a calves foot. Failing this, maybe given a pig’s trotter a bit of a look.

As for the interior bits, I roasted a whole free-range chicken with sage, lemon, and butter. Butter and sage under the breast skin, lemon up the jacksie, and a good butter and seasoning all over. Shred.
Boiled four free-range eggs for 9 minutes and then refreshed in cold water to stop the cooking process. Working from memory, the fresher the eggs, the more likely you’re going to have a nice sharp junction between the yolk and the white.
Chopped up a small jar of gherkins and a small jar of small red cocktail onions.

I use a sharp rectangular bread tin-no need to oil or line with wrap. Pour a thin layer of aspic on the bottom and allow it to set (in the freezer if you keep a sharp eye on it) and then decorate with three egg halves and assorted shapes of gherkin and onion. Top with more chicken and chopped egg gherkin, chicken, and onion mix. I let it set again at the half way point to keep it all a bit loose and have a greater proportion of jelly. Fill again to a smidgen below the top and cover with aspic.
Get a piece of box the size of the tin, wrap it in foil, and place on top with a weight (eg bottle of beer) leave for 12 hours. Wipe fridge clean if you didn’t leave a smidgen of space on the top.
Cut around the sides with a sharp paring knife and if it doesn’t come out, just heat the top a little with some warm water.
Served with a surrounding salad of lettuce, carrot, gherkin, cheese cubes, cocktail onions, and flicks of pate. The best thing for cutting is a serrated cheese knife and if you make slow careful stroke, you should get a nice neat slice. Good stuff. The terrine is now my new official vehicle of food innovation.

250 people showed up for the lunch and there were some pretty speccy efforts with people bringing their finest for dining. I went along just to have fun and be there and then vowed revenge for next year – I’m thinking pig . Kudos to Jeff’s sausage rolls and chutney . Charmaine Solomon was there!

terrine de mère et de fille

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lemon and garlic chicken


As a child in the Eastern Wheatbelt, we would get up early to milk the cows, running home with the still warm cream on our lips, checking our geese for eggs on the way back. Walking to school we would greet the baker and, if we were lucky, he’d hand us some warm buns, fresh from the ovens, which we’d eat with hand-made sausage from the butcher. Mother would pick us up and we’d visit the market, offering our advice as to which were the ripest pears and the juiciest oranges.

Lunch at LamontsAlright, alright that’s crap. The Eastern Wheatbelt was pretty rubbish for food. I think the most exciting thing to come to town was pressed chicken. I’m sure things have picked up but when Mon (on the right in the middle at Lamonts with Wozza, someone called Toni, and a couple whose wedding I went to a few years back) asked me to do a hearty rural dinner for farmers wives that didn’t involve lamb or potatoes, I imagined the worst case minimalist shopping scenario. As military strategist von Rumsfeld might have put it “you go to the kitchen with ingredients you have, not the ingredients you might want”. So don’t blame me if it all goes all pear shaped.

The first thing I’d do would be to get a bunch of plastic containers, make a bunch of stock and pop it all in the chest freezer. This is already culinary gold. Stock. Stock. Stock. Did I mention this before? Stock. Stock. Stock. Stock. Then I’d get some wine, great for cooking and it makes me happy. I’d have a herb garden. Lots of butter. Meats in the freezer. Ingredients that have a shelf life of more than a few days. And a copy of Richard Olney’s Simple French Food (he bags the city a lot). What’s for dinner? Provincial French cooking.

This is another recipe that takes a while but is reasonably straightforward. I’ll explain what happens to each ingredient separately.

Chicken Stock- three chicken carcasses, a couple of chopped carrots and celery sticks, half a chopped leek (or a couple of onions), a handful of parsely, half a dozen peppercorns, a bay leaf, .and a glass of white fine. Cover with water and simmer for at least two hours. Strain, pressing out the solids and put the stock on the boil until it reaches the strength you like. Remove any fat on the top. You can use a paper towel but the easiest way is to let it chill and take the congealed fat off the top.

Garlic- peel 20 pieces of garlic, keep their shape. Cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and then let them simmer for 40 minutes in chicken stock.

Chicken – the recipe uses the legs, which is the drumstick with the thigh attached. I got a whole free-range chicken. Removed the frame, which I used for the stock. And detatched the chicken legs and wings and put the breasts in the freezer for another time. You can cut the knobbly end off the drumstick and the tips off the wings.

Brown the wings and the legs in some butter, remove them and drain the pan, leaving two tablespoons of fat to make the roux.

roux


Roux – add two tablespoons of plain flour to the leftover fat and stir in well over a low heat. Add a half a glass of wine* and stir over a high heat while scraping the bottom of the pan. Add 600ml of chicken stock. And then (this is the Richard Olney hint) – transfer it to a small saucepan as “the small surface permits a more rapid skimming and degreasing of the sauce while preventing an exaggerated reduction”. Skim off any fat or particles with a paper towel for 15 minutes.

*The recipe recommends white wine but I had some light red wine handy so that would do. It says the French Catalan’s use fortified wine like port so there’s a bit of flexibilty.

lemon and garlic chicken


Assembly-place the chicken pieces at the bottom of a casserole pot, add the garlic, and one peeled and finely sliced lemon, and the cover with the stock. Place in a 170C oven for 40 minutes and serve.

I served this on some pasta (rigatoni). Very enjoyable from ingredinets not very different to what you might use in a Sunday Roast. I’d like to try it again with white wine and one mistake was to place the lemon on top of the chicken rather than in the stock so it didn’t blend as well as it could have (it should dissolve). The garlic is the best part, soft and creamy and not at all garlicky like you’d imagine. Oh and the garnish was done with a lemon zester. If you press hard and run it along the side you should get some nice lengths. Otherwise slice the peel thinly and put in ice cold water.

And there you go, hope this is what you’re looking for. I’m actually a bit out of touch, not quite imagining everybody sits around making billy tea in akubra hats out of touch but well. A good chance to say hello in the comments lurking wheatbelt readers (yes you in Belka, and you in Hyden) and maybe suggest a fave.

lemon and garlic chicken


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